Ad Astra

Years ago, James Gray gave us The Lost City of Z, based off of a book and a real life dude, and it was very ambitious. It felt a bit too long, but it had a lot of good going for it, and I know some critics who had it on their top of the year list.

I hadn’t seen anything else from Gray, but I have seen all of his films since then. You know, this one, Ad Astra.

Space Drama? Brad Pitt? Mystery?

Sign me the god damn fuck up.


Sorry Mr. Pitt. I will watch my language in the future.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is a decorated veteran in the armed forces, and has lived a life full of patriotism, honor, and sacrifice. He does his job, and he does it well, with little fuss. He also has a famous father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), the most successful astronaut explorer in human history. He has done so much for space travel and has been held in the highest of honors, and also for this fact, been completely absent from Roy’s life.

Their emotions are distant, both mentally and physically.

And then Clifford had to go missing, on his further adventure yet. No one is sure what happened to his crew. Maybe he died. Maybe he is alive. But the folks are having a sure enough difficult time trying to get in contact with him, so they figure maybe his son will have a better shot. At the same time, there are these pulses that are putting a damper on space travel and getting worse and worse, and they might have something to do with why Clifford and his crew have gone missing.

Can Roy find his father? Basically a man he has already been searching for his whole life?

Also starring Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland.

recording studio
In space, no one can hear you scream. Unless you have a space recording studio.

Where does one begin with a movie like Ad Astra? The previews don’t tell a lot, and neither did my plot section. This is a movie about the journey, about the dangers of space and putting real limitations on our travel. I don’t believe everything was fully explained in terms of how things worked, but they felt realistic. It felt like a real potential for our future, without relying on mysterious future technology too much.

No mysterious space magic or space technology lasers here to solve the day, no siree.

And this is a movie to showcase Brad “The Pit” Pitt. One who knows nothing about him would assume almost that he isn’t acting. He is very passive, telling more with his inner monologue and face than his lack of actions with others. The sins of the father story line is strong here, and so on the nose it is the entire face.

Ad Astra is a movie that is best experienced on a large screen, with large speakers, and an open mind. It is definitely light on the action (despite glimmers and shocks), and heavy on the sorrow. This is a strange epic that is completely unforgiving along the way with one main story to tell. It will be hard to top this level of care that went into an original story this year, but one I am glad I was able to witness.

4 out of 4.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Most reviews for this movie mention fun facts about Quentin Tarantino. And I will spend this time talking about an issue with that. Holy shit, can we all stop going crazy about how many movies he has directed? Let that be his obsession, not ours as reviewers.

Sure, he said he will retire after 10. But plenty of directors have said they would retire and then not.

Outside of a director’s first film, or their second film, I have never seen so many care about their total number after that point. By obsessing over it, we are building up Tarantino to be something bigger than what he really is, and let’s face it, he doesn’t need everyone else stroking his ego.

And with that, let’s talk about Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, his 9th-ish directed movie.

dance
Dance
The year is 1969. Vietnam sucks. Hippies exist. People are famous and rich and Nixon is around as well. We went to the goddamn moon!

But the plot starts in February and ends in August, so most of the film takes place without the moon landing at all. We are talking about aging star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was the lead in a Western show for many years in the 50’s and early 60’s, but now is stuck without many job offers and one off appearances in shows as a bad guy who always loses to the hero. It is also about Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), long time friend and stunt man of Dalton’s. Although he isn’t getting as much stunt work, he is still trying and really a personal assistant and friend to Dalton in order to make some money.

The movie is mainly about their struggles, but it is also a little bit about their neighbors, Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). It is also about a lot of hippies living in abandoned studios. It is about what people need to do to get famous, even if it means doing (shudder) European movies.

Also starring Al Pacino, Austin Butler, Bruce Dern, Clifton Collins Jr., Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis, Damon Herriman, Emile Hirsch, Harley Quinn Smith, Julia Butters, Kurt Russell, Lorenza Izzo, Luke Perry, Margaret Qualley, Mike Moh, Rafal Zawierucha, Scoot McNairy, and Timothy Olyphant.

bar
Most of all business deals are done in bars with cigars.

Around 2006, when information was coming out about this future movie called Iron Man, people were abuzz with casting decisions. Who is playing who!? One of the most exciting aspects of the whole deal was of course Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury. And then not much else was said about him for a while.

Opening night while watching Iron Man, I remember being so excited the whole film to see SLJ as Fury, and getting to the end of the movie and being confused. “No! They said there would be a Nick Fury!” So as the credits started to roll, I told my friends to sit down. There must be something more in the credits. And lo and behold, at the end of the first MCU film, there was another scene, with Fury introducing the concept of Avengers. At that point this wasn’t established, for something at the end of the credits, I just knew it had to be. I needed my Nick Fury, damn it.

So how does this relate to Once Upon A Time in Hollywood? It relates perfectly I’ll have you know in a second, but let me give you some non spoilery analysis.

This movie is gorgeous. It meanders, yes. It could have been slimmed down. Pitt and DeCaprio give wonderful performances and I won’t forget about them soon. The cameos were fun. Robbie felt like a completely different person and did well at this carefree in the moment feeling actress.

So here are the spoilers for the rest of the review.

Did you know that Charles Manson was in this movie? Well, if you read movie articles, you should have known about it. Because about a year and a half ago, info for this movie started coming out and people were in an uproar that Tarantino was about to do a movie about Manson. There was a bit of backpedaling, like letting us know that he was in it but it isn’t about him, it just has him in it as a subplot or something.

And then I guess everyone forgot about it, because suddenly with this movie coming out, there is this strange aura of spoilers like its Avengers: Endgame. What the hell could really be a spoiler for a movie like this? In the theater, while talking to friends, I correctly guessed the ending of the film before hand as a joke, and uhh, it was correct. It was mostly a surprise due to just knowing what happened with Inglorious Bastards and knowing that Manson was in it. Shit, they end up making pretty obvious references to IB early in the film with a fictional Nazi burning movie.

Anyways, I think it is a mistake to try and make this whole thing a secret. I think it is okay to know that Manson murders plotline is involved, because if you don’t know anything about the real life Manson murders, a lot of the buildup won’t make as much sense. I mean, shit. This movie was actually supposed to come out on August 9th originally, which is the 50th anniversary of those murders. But it was pushed two weeks up in this schedule, maybe to make things less obvious, I have no idea.

I appreciate the level of detail that went into those scenes, using actual lines, character names, times, dates, and places. It is something he has thought a lot about, and it makes sense in QT’s “real world movie series” and still helps explain his “in universe film series” as a comparison.

If you are unfamiliar with that period, whether it is real events, the movies of the time, it will feel like a long drag and never really reach a high amount of payout. But as a movie about the place where movies were made, about an event that affected movies since that time, it has a lot of insight and actual information in a fictional film.

Also, DiCaprio and Pitt are really fun in this one.

3 out of 4.

War Machine

I know that War Machine has been a term for a long time. I mean, Black Sabbath sang the song War Pigs which uses that term, so it had to exist probably at least since the 1960’s as a sort of protest term maybe during Vietnam? Normally, I might look that up, but I am just spitballing here.

Clearly the Netflix original film War Machine is referring to it in this way, about modern conflicts and maybe war profiteers.

But as you all are aware, there is War Machine of the Iron Man/Marvel movies, and he is probably big enough to have taken over that title. Maybe they picked the title to just piggy back off of that Marvel money. That Disney money.

Like war profiteers.

Face
The face you make when you have been a heartthrob for decades and now have to play a role with gray hair.

General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is a leader in the United States Armed Forces, and has dedicated his life to his career. He was born on an army base, coming from several soldiers. He graduated from West Point, like all eventual war leaders, and so on. He likes to get shit done, he has his close crew of soldiers he can trust, and he doesn’t appreciate things getting in his way.

This is set a few years ago, with Obama still as president, and he wants to end the war in Afghanistan. They are now dealing with insurgents, making it an impossible to win fight, but damn it, he was put in charge and he will put it to a close. He has to make assessments and come up with a plan of attack, everyone in the government is hoping for the best. But McMahon doesn’t do what is heavily suggested, he is going to do what he knows is right to defeat the bad guys and save our troops.

However, as command of the troops, he is finding a lot more of the job involves not warring, but instead dealing with incompetent or annoying world leaders, including his own. The politics of war is unnerving and getting to him, preventing him from doing his job. It seems like he is put into that place entirely to be targeted by newspapers, the media, other countries, protesters, blaming him for a war he didn’t start and is just trying to finish.

And as it is a war movie, there are a shit ton of people involved, so here a lot of of the more important ones. Alan Ruck, Anthony Hayes, Anthony Michael Hall, Aymen Hamdouchi, Ben Kingsley, Daniel Betts, Emory Cohen, John Magaro, Josh Stewart, Meg Tilly, RJ Cyler, Scoot McNairy, Tilda Swinton, Topher Grace, and Russell Crowe.

Leaders
Photo ops allow people to dress up fancy, show their medals, wear cool hats, and apparently drink tea.

Satire films are hard to pull off, especially if you want to avoid the now ugly valley called parody. War Machine does a decent job of maintaining its satire status without dipping down to any sort of parody territory. What it doesn’t do a good job of is being an amazing satire film.

For satire to work, everyone has to be able to get it, understand the real world events and how the art is flipping it on its head. It would be hard for someone to not know about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the film does go into a level of detail that would require more than the layman’s knowledge. Not a whole lot, just some, so that could be considered a negative to a lot of viewers.

I loved Pitt in our leading role here. He gave such an honest performance and was fully in that character. It never felt like the character was intentionally trying to be the butt of a joke, always very serious in ways that became amusing just to an outsider perspective. It just had a lot of truth to it, a wonderful thing for Pitt to have accomplished in this movie.

I wouldn’t say this is a perfect or extraordinary film. It was a decent watch, one I won’t probably ever go running for again. I will also like to point out how amazing Swinton was in this film. She had only one scene and her character is named German Politician, so someone you would assume is just a dumb cameo, but she killed it and added a lot of gravity to the general’s situation.

3 out of 4.

The Big Short

Did you see Margin Call? No? Well, it had a pretty big cast of actors! I mean, Stanley Tucci was in it, so you should see it. That is why I wanted to watch all the Hunger Games movies, but he only had one damn scene in the last one, and it wasn’t even good.

I ended up really enjoying it and found it informative. I didn’t think I was an expert on the financial collapse that America had experienced, but I got the vibe behind it all and understood that something like that could happen.

Needless to say, I didn’t expect more movies about the collapse. Then The Big Short came along. And I didn’t know what to expect. But here is a hint.

Anchorman. Anchorman 2. The Other Guys. Talladega Nights. Step Brothers. Sure, all of these have Will Ferrell in common, but they are also directed by Adam McKay.

Sure, he has directed some TV shows and shorts and random things, but that list was literally every movie he has ever directed. Up til The Big Short. Can a guy who is BFF’s with Ferrell, make a movie serious enough about the economic collapse, easy to understand, and good, without any Ferrell at all?

The Gos
Don’t worry, we have mature Gosling to make the women and men swoon instead.

Back to the crisis. Our story starts in 2005, with one man. Michael Burry (Christian Bale). He is a socially awkward guy, with a fake eye. He had a wealthy inheritance, so he took it to wall street to make his own small investment firm. And you know what he wants to put over a billion of dollars? Into the mortgage market.

Mortgages are safe, everyone pays them, and only people who can pay them end up getting them. That idea has made bankers rich since the 1970s, thanks to something called Mortgage Backed Securities, MBS. The banks loan out hundreds of mortgages in one lump sum to many homes, and when they are that big, they can make some sweet interest and that gets them rich. More or less. But banks got greedy. They started renting to riskier and riskier people. So the chance of these large funds crashing, creating very bad scenarios, is actually getting higher but no one seems to notice.

Except for Burry. He wants to “short” the MBS funds. More or less, that means he is betting against them. He is loaning money to banks, like Goldman Sachs, and paying a monthly premium on it. He is letting them have that money, until these MBS’s break and he will get his money back multiplied many times over. He is the first guy to do something like this and most people think he is insane, but he looked at the numbers.

But there were more players. Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) is our narrator, and actually works for Deutsche Bank. He finds out about the Burry deal and tries to get more people to follow suit, believing in him and working to get some profit on the side as well. He ends up talking to Mark Baum (Steve Carell), operator of a hedge fund, who crusades against all the bull shit on wall street, and sets out to find just how corrupt this whole thing is.

Also, Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), two Denver boys who grew their own money to 30 million, who see this as an opportunity to finally make it to the big leagues.

We have a ton of people in this movie, including Marisa Tomei, Brad Pitt, Adepero Oduye, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Rafe Spall, Jeffry Griffin, Max Greenfield, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain.

Drum
The man who drums at his desk and doesn’t wear a suit, predicted the downfall of American economy.
This is why I choose to wear shorts as well.

I honestly didn’t think much about this movie before seeing it. I saw the trailer once before Steve Jobs, was intrigued by the cast, but then forgot about it. And hey, I like some of McKay’s films a lot. I just didn’t have any faith with this topic.

Well, fuck me, I was wrong, and this movie was really fucking good. Star to finish, it captivated me about wall street fucking over America.

The acting was on point from all points, especially with Carrell and Bale as power houses. Pitt was very subtle in this film, similar to his role in 12 Years A Slave. But even better about these roles is that no single person was really the main character. The main character was the housing bubble and banks lying to America.

Were these people bad for profiting off the downfall of the World Economy? Sure, kind of. That is morally grey. Because it shows that some of them tried to tell everyone the problem with the numbers, tried to do something about the collusion, but were laughed right in their faces. Even if they wanted to warn everyone, no one would listen because the vast majority of people didn’t understand how any of it worked and were lied too constantly.

This movie made me ANGRY. I felt rage at what was going on, only eight years ago. I am mad that nothing has really changed. I am mad that no one got punished for it and that so many people got fucked over. I am mad that this movie is also a comedy, and that I gained so much amusement at something that ended up being so terrible.

And that is what a great movie can do. It can make you feel things. The Big Short is funny and anger inducing, while also taking a very complicated subject and making one feel like they understand it. I feel like I totally understand everything that happened now and it was something I never really thought about before. The Big Short is good enough that I feel like I could watch it every few months and still enjoy it and still feel those same emotions.

The Big Short wants me to almost get political and start shouting at rich people. One of the years best.

4 out of 4.

Fury

Fury. Finally. I have said a few times I wanted more TV shows and movies based around basic human emotions. We had Glee, and we had Rage? What about Fear? What about Sorrow? And so now we get Fury.

In all honesty, I feel like it has been a good while since I have seen a really good war movie. Too many things focused on Iraq and Afghanistan that are all over the place in terms of quality. I guess I enjoyed Lone Survivor, but that wasn’t a super long epic war movie, a la Saving Private Ryan.

I mean, the last thing we got was The Monuments Men, and everyone know how great that ended up being. Just saying, a lot of pressure on Fury, and they have to start with an uphill battle, because they put Shia LaBeouf in it.

Crew
There he is, hiding in the back, behind that mustache.

War is hard. Just ask the former assistant driver of the Fury tank. Well, you’d be able to if his face wasn’t blown off. That sucks. They liked him. He has been with them for years. Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) promised his team that he would always keep them safe and he has finally broken his word. It was only a matter of time. Sure, it is now April fucking 1945, the war almost over. But the Germans keep fighting back, despite the allied forces on their doorstep in their country.

So now they are a man down, but only temporarily. Their replacement is the young Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Eight weeks into the army, hardly a man, he is going to have to learn to grow up and quick. Especially with a bunch of Germans surrounding them, and four pissed off Americans sharing a cramped space with him. Like other assistant driver/gunner Gordo (Michael Pena), main gun shooter guy Bible (LaBeouf), and big missile loader crazy man Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal).

Oh and hey. The Germans have better tanks. Better defended, better missiles. And they aren’t as spread out. And their equipment isn’t outdated. So yeah. The tank, Fury, has a lot going against it. And now they got a kid who hasn’t even killed a man. Basically a death wish keeping him around.

But war is hard and surviving it is even harder.

And don’t worry, there are other tanks. And other soldiers. Some of which are acted by Jim Parrack, Kevin Vance, and Brad William Henke. For diversity sake.

Pew Pew Pew
But Americans have some lasers on their tanks, so it should all even out in the long run.

Not many war films glorify war, and this one is not an exception. In fact, so few war films glorify war that it seems silly that I even have to mention that. Should only mention it when a film actually does glorify war at this point.

But this one has exceptional acting talent behind it as well. From the bottom up. LaBeouf? Eh. He is better at pieces set in the past. I didn’t hate him by the end. Bernthal? Probably his best work. Pena? It is surprising how well of an actor he has been over the last few years, given his start. No difference here. Lerman? Not just a Percy Jackson looking kid anymore. He conveyed a huge range of emotions. Pitt? I’d watch Pitt watch paint dry for 2 hours and probably give that film 2 thumbs up. I’d watch him make tea and then refuse to drink it for five hours. Does he make bad movies? I mean, even Mr. and Mrs. Smith has some redeeming qualities.

This is an extremely violent film, as you would imagine based on title and plot. I personally only thought “Boom! Headshot!” once or twice throughout the whole film, despite the large number of them. They were just so shocking and gross.

The film isn’t just war torn countryside and fighting. There are periods of downtime, including one extremely long scene in a conquered German city. The type of scene that reminded me of something Quentin Tarantino would do. That could just be because of Pitt/Inglourious Basterds though.

I honestly went in expecting a movie that might have gotten a bit too anti-war preachy. One that didn’t give me the best acting. I don’t know what I was smoking. Fury is now one of my new homeboys.

4 out of 4.

12 Years A Slave

I try to not go into movies biased, but with going to a lot of movies, I am forced to see a lot of previews. Mother fucking movie previews bias the crap out of me. I miss the days where I could watch most of my movies without knowing a lot about it before hand.

The good news is, I never saw the trailer for 12 Years A Slave, nor did I know what it was about. I mean, I can guess, with a title like that. But I don’t know the real plot details. That is awesome.

However, I did know a lot of hype from my reviewer friends. Every single damn one of them loved this movie and there is much talk of Oscar buzz. I guess I should make note: that type of stuff biases too. Whoops. Oh well.

Fancy Dining
Oh man. Enjoy that dinner guy. It is all about to suck for you after this.

Soloman Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, with his wife and two children. They are pretty well off too, living in a nice home, fine clothes, and instruments! Soloman plays the violin, and he is quite good at it. Performs at very exquisite dancing balls.

Well, his wife and children go on a trip that will take them away for about three weeks, leaving Soloman all alone. Later that day, in town, he meets two gentlemen, performers, who offer to bring Soloman on trip to Washington and back, overall two weeks. They need a man to play music for them and their other acts, a fancy circus of some sorts. He agrees, given his current free time, and hey, good money is good money.

Then, after a night of drinking in Washington, he finds himself in chains. Hmm. This must be some misunderstanding. A pretty serious and unforgiving misunderstanding. There is only so much you can do in chains however, and when people with whips say otherwise, you must listen.

And so began the unfortunate story of Soloman, a free educated and wealthy black man, kidnapped into slavery for, you guessed it, 12 years of his life. Away from his family, friends, and any sensible human being. There is a huge cast of characters in this film, including: Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch as slave owners, Paul Giamatti as a slave trader, Brad Pitt a Canadian sympathizer, Paul Dano as an overseer, Lupita Nyong’o a hardworking female slave that becomes an obsession of her master, and Adepero Oduye a woman who becomes separated from her children.

Dick
FUCK YOU FASSBENDER. I HATE YOU NOW. I HATE YOU. YOUR CHARACTER WAS A DICK AND NOW I THINK YOU ARE A DICK!

So gritty and unforgiving, and so true. The film is adapted from a book of the same name, written in the 1850s by Soloman Northup. The book gives a first hand experience of years of being a slave, by a man educated enough to accurately recall the events and get them written down. A vague book, that not a lot of people are aware of, but a book that will have sales boosted exponentially due to this movie. Shit, the book was even verified later as being very factual and accurate on all the accounts that could be fact checked.

But it being a true story shouldn’t affect the rating of it as a movie.

Thankfully, it doesn’t even matter, as this movie was incredible in every way. It was emotionally draining, as bad event after bad event occurred to our hero. Yeah, we know he obviously eventually gets out of his predicament, or else how could he write the book? That fact doesn’t change any amount of agony that the watchers and character feel during the events in the story, and it is very eye opening.

I am super stoked this movie isn’t political in nature or trying to change anything (because how could it? It already stopped), but instead focuses only on telling a full, accurate and strong story.

Chiwetel Ejiofor was stupidly good in this movie. The emotion he carried with his eyes alone made everything seem so believable. I already mentioned Fassbender, who had an almost equally powerful performance, enough to make me hate his real life self.

I will warn that there is some graphic stuff in here. I am talking whip scenes, rape scenes, just general beatings, and an incredibly long and well shot hanging scene. You might have to look away, and you might feel squeamish. “12 Years A Slave” is probably the current front runner for Best Picture this year in my book, with only 1.5 months left to go int he year. Shits good. Slavery is bad. I am sad.

4 out of 4.

The Counselor

The initial trailers for The Counselor quickly caught my eye, but one thing really bugged me: I had no idea what the movie was about. It looked like some combination of drugs, sex, high life living, and death, I guess.

In fact, if the trailer was just a tad bit more artsy, I would compare it ahead of time to the very strange Killing Them Softly, but from the trailer it looks like it might just be another Savages.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. It is worse than both of them.

Cowboys
And they didn’t even have Pitt in a cowboy hat.
It turns out that this movie is indeed about drugs, sex, high life living, and death. I guess the trailer told me all I really had to know, for once.

The main character goes by Counselor (Michael Fassbender), so try not to get confused. He is a lawyer, a decent one, but lawyering doesn’t pay the bills. Not if he wants an extravagant lady like Laura (Penelope Cruz) in his life.

So he dabbles in the drug trade a bit, doing some smaller deals to get extra funds. His hook up for these trades is Reiner (Javier Bardem), who loves to show off his wealth and posessions. He is currently with Malkina (Cameron Diaz), a sex crazed woman, who owns two pet cheetahs.

Well, the Counselor decides he is only going to do one more deal, a much bigger deal than normal, worth over $20 million. He wants to marry Laura, so he wont be able to keep up his secret lifestyle.

But when has “one last job” ever worked out for anyone? Brad Pitt has a small role in this as well, as Westray, a middleman between Counselor and the drug king pins.

Ladies
Some people will watch the movie for the plot.
The actors in this movie are all fantastic professionals at their craft. Thankfully, they all act wonderfully in this film and I won’t think less of them because of their roles.

No, this mess of a film has to be blamed on Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy. Strong words, I know. Scott is a fantastic director, but this movie is no where close to his finest work. McCarthy is a great writer, and most of the films based on his novels have been excellent, but this is his first time writing a screenplay. Somehow the two of them managed to mess up a great thing and produce a film that feels like a waste of time and talent.

What is wrong with the movie? Basically everything.The editing, the plot, the dialogue, and the resolution.

I only cared about one character, Laura, and that was because she was too naive to realize what she was getting in to. Or she chose to ignore it all. Yeah, the rest o the cast members are all immoral people, but many movies have made me at least hate those bad characters and want them to face justice in some way. In this movie, I don’t care if they get out alive or not. The development doesn’t give me any reason to care.

My biggest problem with this film is that it doesn’t end up making a lot of sense. The plot has holes everywhere and the only major scenes only happen due to coincidence. Things go badly for this drug deal but because the movie doesn’t explain a lot of important details, it took me awhile to realize that any characters were actually in danger. In a movie about drug deals gone bad, you should be able to realize when the deal has officailly gone bad (and that the deal has even started).

The Counselor won’t tarnish the good names of Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy any time soon. No, this film will instead be swept under the rug quietly in a few weeks and promptly ignored.

 

1 out of 4.

World War Z

It is a strange time for zombie movies, with the last few serious ones never really living up to the “George A. Romero” Standards. Who decides these standards? Well, fans of the old stuff, who hate everything new, basically. Thankfully with films like Warm Bodies, zombies that break the mold are becoming a bit more accepted by movie watchers.

However, the fact that World War Z (Trailer) has really fast moving zombies doesn’t seem to be the major concern with most viewers. It is the fact that the movie is almost nothing like the book (According to book author Max Brooks) that the name comes from.. I never tend to care about source material with reviews. If a movie is good on its own merits, it should be judged on its own merits. But even I can admit that making it nothing like the material and only borrowing the name is just a bit scummy.

I tried to tell Brad Pitt that I was disappointed in that fact, but with a face like his, how could I stay mad?

Hair
Let’s not even get into the luscious hair that he sports for this film.

The movie begins with a series of news reports letting the viewer note the currents state of the world. After that, we are introduced to the main family in this story. Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is now a stay at home dad, with two young daughters and a loving wife Karin (Mireille Enos).

About seven minutes into the film, they stop with all the boring drama nonsense, and get straight into crazy zombie madness! All around the world, zombie outbreaks are occurring, with many major cities falling. The Lanes are in Pennsylvania and find themselves on the run with the world crumbling beneath them.

However, it turns out Gerry used to be a pretty big deal in the United Nations, a smart guy, very tactical, and good at the surviving in extremely volatile locations. His former boss John Garang (Fana Mokoena) is able to lift him out of Newark, New Jersey, giving his family a space on the fleet in the Atlantic. Far away from any mean old zombies. Unfortunately, this lift to freedom doesn’t come without a price. Gerry has to go with a small team of seal soldiers and a scientist to help figure out the cause of the outbreak, or you know, the end of the world.

Let’s also not forget that Matthew Fox is in this movie as the important role of “Paratrooper.” Arguably a big name actor, he has less than a minute of real screen time I’d estimate. Danielle Kertesz plays a female Israeli soldier!

Pyramid
They would make great mindless cheerleaders. Dat pyramid.

Did I mention I loved that the action in the movie started so dang early? I thought I was going to be left with a lot of family drama, worrying about protecting the kids, but within the first half hour they are dropped off on the aircraft carrier and only a minor nuisance after that. When watching this movie, you are not going to care about his family, or any other character. Really the only important person in this movie is Brad Pitt. His youngest daughter is particularly distracting early on, mostly because she is a nine or ten year old girl acting like a four year old.

Another potential issue is that this film is only PG-13. The lack of blood and decapitated bodies seems to be a problem for the die-hard zombie fans, but it was a problem I could ignore. My biggest issue is with the sometimes sub par CGI. The mass hoards of zombies would often appear more blurry, which just ruins otherwise fantastic action scenes.

Despite the narrative flaws and less than stellar effects, the movie kept me interested throughout its almost two hour run time. I jumped out of seat on multiple occasions, often surprised how much fear was in the movie. Yes, it is zombie based, but the trailers made it seem like it would be action/adventure oriented. Brad Pitt survives some ludicrous situations, almost making me laugh at how ridiculous it all is. But he is a big movie star, I know he is going to survive inconsequential things like airplane crashes and stab wounds.

As a zombie movie, it is actually pretty tame, but I think it adds something unique to the genre.

3 out of 4.

Killing Them Softly

What can I say about Killing Them Softly? On the internet, where I live, there seems to be a pretty heated discussion on whether or not this movie is weird. Why? Because it is just incredibly weird overall. Like, over the top, doesn’t go the way you think it will, very long scenes, weird.

Also, it has not so subtle messages about the economy, taking place during the McCain/Obama elections of 2008.

Ray Liotta
Here is a not so subtle picture of Ray Liotta, being pissed.

In New Orleans, a lot of people like to gamble. Rich people. Many people run games. Including Markie (Liotta). Except the first time he ran a game, it got hit up by thugs, robbed everyone. Much much later, after everyone got the money back through whatever means, he admitted he hit his own game. No one cared anymore. Hilarious. So that is where Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) comes in. He realizes that if they were to steal from one of his games, they will automatically think it was Markie, not another party, and kill him for it. They can get away easily! He just needs two men to do it!

He has one guy in Frankie (Scoot McNairy), but his friend Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) is kind of a wild card. Australian, druggie, other shit. Talks a lot too. What if he just spoils the whole thing?

Well, the plan happens. They make money. Everything good is happening!

But what if they find out? Lot of powerful people behind the scenes, very bureaucratic. They get their task man (Richard Jenkins) to hire a hit man (Brad Pitt) to fix all of the loose ends, and get their money back. Maybe he might even bring in a second hit man (James Gandolfini) just to handle it all.

Pitt?
Why did I wait to show you Brad Pitt? Because you had to wait a long time to see him in the movie too.

But now I can talk about why this movie is so frustrating. There are some incredible scenes. Some slow motion assassinations, with a lot going on, kind of reminded me of Dredd, but less over-exaggeration. The dialogue was interesting and realistic. People talked about random shit that didn’t seem to move the movie forwards. That is because real people have real problems, and who cares about killing people when your life is going to leave you.

The movie’s action was actually really light. I would say there is about 10x as much just sitting around talking then there is action, as it is most of the movie. However, the movie also did a lot that bugged me.

In one scene, a character hadn’t slept much in a few days, and was a bit drugged up, so we got to see a conversation in his point of view. The camera actually got darker when he closed his eyes and was about to sleep. But it was only the two people talking. So the majority of that conversation was the other character asking his questions multiple times until he was awake enough to answer. It was frustrating for him, but far more frustrating for the viewer. I personally got a headache in that one scene.

It is a hard movie to watch, for sure. There were six people in my theater, but four of them left before the end of the movie. That is not a good retention rate.

But at the same time, there is something about this movie that is intriguing. I just think it was advertised as something its not, and belongs more on the indie market. Watch it if you want, if you don’t want to, then don’t. Easy enough.

2 out of 4.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

I will admit, this movie also took me quite a long to watch. Why? Because it takes quite a long time to watch. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button clocks in at about 160 minutes, so watching it late at night or if you have a short attention span seems like a bad idea.

sexytime
Bad idea? Like starting a relationship with someone who ages weirdly?

The movie begins with an old lady, probably about to die. Oh just hanging out in New Orleans, in the mid 2000s. Sure it won’t turn into a big deal. This woman, Daisy (Cate Blanchett) wants her daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond) to read to her from the diary of Benjamin Button

He grew up under abnormal circumstances. Haven’t you heard? He was a creepy wrinkled baby. His dad Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng) was scared, the birth killed the mom, so he leaves him at an orphanage/old folks home thing. Weird enough. But once he gets bigger, his old body shall fit in nicely. Especially when a worker there, Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) agrees to raise him as her own.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) begins to learn about the world, but disguised as an old guy. That’s good, just makes him seem forgetful. He grows up more and more, learns to walk, discovers sex, love, and sin. Including on and off again meeting of Caroline. I am sure that will lead to something. He also gets a boat job, with a Monsieur Gateau (Elias Koteas) which gives him a skill, a hobby, and even puts him involved with post Pearl Harbor World War 2 shenanigans.

But love. Love is all he really needs and wants, and only a few people know about his condition, thankfully one kind of is his same age. Kind of. Maybe they can figure something out and make it work.

Check out those muscles
Like all young kids, he became fascinated with himself in the mirror as a teen.

This movie took me forever to get in to it. I mean, it was odd and weird obviously, but he beginning when he was just an old man learning stuff for the first time? I just didn’t seem to care at all. Was just weird. Setting the narration during Katrina was more or less pointless.

I don’t think it became truly interesting to me until he was attacked on the ship. From then on I was pretty much hooked. And the last third? I might have been accidentally emotional last night, but it seemed like the saddest of all sad things in sadville. SUPER SAD. I can’t even describe the sadness. But it took so long for that plot line to really develop. Not until BB was at least distinguished gentlemen old looking.

Also, the whole thing sort of felt like a reverse Forrest Gump. Kind of weird. Follow follow up, I thought about this movie. Would it be interesting at all, his life, if he wasn’t aging backwards? Would the events without that warrant a movie? Probably not. So overall its just okay. Not the best. Should have been a lot better, and maybe a better hook at the start. But damn, something.

2 out of 4.

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